“How much screen time is good for my child?” This question pops up sooner or later in every parents’ minds. While some swear by the ‘no-screen’ rule, some allow fixed hours, while yet some allow the child uninterrupted screen time. So whether you need to limit your kids screen time? Will it adversely affect their lifestyle?
What is ideal screen time?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that a family must make a media plan – a schedule in which a child can resort to entertainment with media given there is ample time for them to play, talk, study, and sleep. The AAP recommends different screen schedules for different age groups:
- No media exposure, except video calls for children less than 18 months of age.
- Choose high-quality programmes (like Animal Planet or Discovery documentaries) and use them as a means to educate them for children in the age group of 18-24 month age group.
- Screen time should be limited to one hour per day of high-quality programmes under total supervision for children in the ages of 2 to 5 years.
- For children of the ages 6 and above, there must be consistent time limits on media usage and types of media. However, you must make sure that media time does not interfere with sleep time or any other activity.
- Keep open conversation with children about online safety and responsibilities.
However, with more screen time being brought into use by schools, how feasible is it to keep your child screen free? Or how do you ensure that your child does not play online games on another window while researching for a project?
With technology expanding as fast as it is, it is virtually impossible to keep children totally away from it. Children as young as 5-6 years old are comfortable using a smartphone. Your child is most likely to pick up the habit from another child even if you are strict about screen time.
1. Start setting boundaries for everyone
As parents, you are your children’s first role models. You simply cannot have a phone in your hand all the time and expect your children to be screen free. A very simple analogy is that just like you wouldn’t let your child walk alone on a busy road, you shouldn’t let your child use the phone on his in. Constant supervision is a must. If screen time is interfering with sleep, interaction, meal times and play time, you should not bring phones into the respective areas. When you use your phone, consider it as a demonstration for your child.
2. Make sleep times fun
Phones tend to make children moody. Nearer to bedtime, it makes them edgy and super excited. This disrupts sleep. Plus, they are usually not willing to give up the phone and that could result in a fighting match. All in all, not a good scenario. Instead, you can try making bedtimes fun. A story or a good song will do. Let them choose their bedsheets and blankets so that they are excited to go to bed. Giving priority to sleep keeps the child fresdh and makes them less cranky. They are in control of themselves and can think and discuss issues than an irritated child who just cries.
3. Keep communication open
You must be aware of what your child is watching online. There are many good things out there and some extremely toxic things too. However, being aware is not enough. If you start nagging your child about what they see, they will not turn to you to discuss any issues they may have. A number of children were claied by the “Blue Whale” challenge. This could have been prevented if the children and the parents had had open lines of communication.
4. Use technology to limit screen time
Ironic as it sounds, technology could be your friend and partner in limiting screen time for your children. You can even manage what your children watch on TV or online. Use child locks and set time limits on your WiFi routers at home. There are even apps available that keep certain apps, net access or devices locked at certain times of the day. You could install tracking apps that monitor the time your child spends on social media.
If you are a parent who allows screen time, do not feel guilty. In fact, I’m one of those. My son, however, learned so many useful things off the internet that I’m thankful to it.
But if you think your child’s screen time is going out if control, you can try these tips. Remember that you are treading in thin ice here so you need to be very careful not to antagonize your child.
What’s your take on this? Let’s talk more about this topic here!